Phillies legends remember housing life in the minors during their pro debuts.
Starting in 2022 major league clubs are required to provide and pay for housing for their minor league players. It wasn’t always that way.
His 1980 pro debut came with the Bend (OR) Phillies in the Northwest League. Bend was some 5,700 miles from his Dominican Republic home.
“We stayed in a hotel. Four of us from the island hung together, Sergio Isambert, Alfredo Reynolds and Juan Acevedo who was Nino Espinosa’s brother. One day we noticed the American teammates checking out of the hotel. One told me the club was only paying for a hotel room for one week. My buddies and I got a newspaper, checked out apartments and found one. My mother was from St. Thomas, so I knew some English. I was the interpreter.” (Laughing).
Began pro career in 1960 with the Elmira (NY) Pioneers. Older brother, Hank, was also on that club.
“Coy, my oldest brother, rented a house at 157 Light Street. Hank, me and Bobby Sanders (infielder) lived there.”
Phillies first round selection in 1968. Began his career as a 17-year-old first baseman with the Huron (SD) Phillies. Dallas Green was his manager, 17-year-old catcher Manny Trillo a teammate.
“Lived with a host family, me, Roger Noble and Allen Bowers. We lived in the basement. Living was free but we paid them because they did the laundry. The Plains Hotel was across the street from the ballpark. Ate there most of the time because we got a discount. Four of us chipped into buy a used car to get back and forth to the park. We had the trunk removed and a couple seats put in. We’d pick up guys at different stops and were overloaded more often than not. The police never stopped us.”
The Phillies selected Jimmy in the second round of the 1996 draft, 46th overall player chosen, following an outstanding career at Encinal High School in Alameda, CA. Pro debut came with the Martinsville (VA) Phillies.
“I lived with a host family who lived about 300 feet behind the left field fence. Easy walk to the ballpark. Sometimes hopped over the fence. Had two roommates, Kris Stevens, a left-handed pitcher from my state who was the 3rd round pick and another pitcher but his name escapes me.”
A four-sport star athlete (basketball, baseball, football, track and field) at Parry McCluer High School in Buena Vista, VA, Charlie Manuel received college basketball offers and was pursued by several major league teams. He chose baseball signing with the Minnesota Twins following graduation in 1963. Signing bonus: $20,000. Twins sent the 19-year-old to Wytheville, VA, their rookie club in the Appalachian League.
“My aunt lived in Wytheville, so I lived with her during my first pro season. She drove me to the ballpark and took good care of me. Red Norwood was the manager. Another red head Virginian, Harrisonburg. I remember my number, 9…Ted Williams you know.”
Bobby was a much sought-after shortstop his senior year (1957) at Northport High School on Long Island. Phillies scout Dale Jones signed him, $4,000. Began pro career in Johnson City (TN).
“After two days at the hotel, I was told I needed to find my own housing. Bob Gontkosky, one of my teammates, said a bunch of guys had rented a house and I could join them. There were 10 of us. I started by sleeping in a screened in porch. Later, when a couple of the players got released or promoted, I got my own bedroom.
Following an outstanding senior year at Marysville (WA) High School the Phillies selected Larry, right-handed pitcher, in the first round of the 1972 draft. His pro debut came with the Pulaski (VA) Phillies.
“Roomed with Rocky Skalisky, another pitcher, in a boarding house owned by Mrs. Martin. We had a bedroom on the second floor. Remember putting a six-pack of beer in the refrigerator one day. It was gone the next day. Mrs. Martin didn’t allow beer.”
Dickie Noles was a Phillies fourth-round selection in 1975 out of Harding High School, Charlotte, NC. “Wes Livengood (Phillies scout) met me, my dad and high school coach at Denny’s restaurant where I signed. Got a $28,500 bonus.” Went right from Charlotte to the Auburn (NY) Phillies.
“Spent first night in a motel and then moved into a guest home with three teammates. We were a little noisy for the other guests, so Sammye Welborn (RHP) and I found a third-floor bedroom in another house. We had a kitchenette and our own outside entrance.”
Lefthanded pitcher on the USC College World Series team, Gillick was signed by the Orioles and assigned to their Stockton, CA, club. The year was 1959.
“Billy DeMars was the manager. He was strict but likeable. Taught us how to conduct ourselves as a pro, playing the game the right way.
“Pete Ward and I were roommates. We stayed in a hotel all season, $10 a night. Actually, had a suite. Rode our bikes to the park. Sometimes a teammate with a car would pick us up. I loved playing pro ball. I always had decent won/loss records and ERAs. My problem was control. I believe if I had better control and consistency I could have pitched in the majors.
(Excerpts from “Life In The Minors, 5th annual Phillies Minor League Digest” by Steve Potter and me, February 2021. Complete history of 115 Phillies minor league teams. www.amazon.com/Life-In-Minors-Annual-Phillies-League.)